Luz Rello: Fighting to change dyslexia

#Engage

Luz Rello — Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and Founder of Change Dyslexia

When you go to the doctor it is usually because you already feel sick, but many experts emphasize the importance of early diagnosis. This is especially relevant in the case of dyslexia, a so called hidden disability that impairs the ability to read and write, and affects 10% of the population in Spain and 15% in the United States.

Luz Rello, a young Spanish investigator, is dedicated to fighting this disability. In 2014, she won an MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Spain award for her work on how to help kids who suffer from dyslexia to battle with their learning disability through videogames. Afterwards, she realized that with the data collected from the games she could help detect dyslexia at very early ages. And thus, Dytective was born.

Luz Rello — Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and Founder of Change Dyslexia

Dytective is an application aimed at detecting dyslexia in children before it becomes a problem at school. Usually dyslexia is not perceived on time and the awareness is triggered when the kids are already failing academically, or sometimes it remains undetected and increases the risk of school dropouts. In Spain, for example, dyslexia is the cause of 40% of school dropouts.

Luz Rello herself is dyslexic, and she believes she was lucky because a teacher detected her disability early on. That’s why she wants to fight for early detection through Dytective. The average diagnosis for dyslexia usually costs between 200 and 1,000 euros, an amount of money that many families aren’t able to pay. That’s why Rello wants Dytective to be a non-profit game, and for that reason she and her team have launched a Kickstarter campaign, so they can develop the app and offer it for free.

“Our dream is to incorporate the most advanced technologies into the research focused on detecting dyslexia and to help people deal with it, no matter where you were born or the income you have.” — Luz Rello

Rello’s general objectives range from reducing school dropouts by offering an early diagnosis, to making it fun for the kids to learn how to deal with their disability. The prototype has been built thanks to the work of 300 volunteers. Some of them are moms that go from school to school to recruit participants, which to date total more than 10,000 kids from different countries who have demonstrated that Dytective has achieved a 90% accuracy rate through the use of a top tier artificial intelligence model (recurrent neural networks, a kind of machine learning).

The final, ready-to-use application is expected to be launched in September or October if the funding develops properly. The kickstarter campaign will conclude on April 27th, so there’s still time to make more donations for those of you who want to help Rello achieve her goal of fighting dyslexia.


Luz Rello was selected by the MIT Technology Review as Innovators Under 35 Spain in 2014. If you want to be part of this community of young innovators, pioneers and disruptive thinkers, the nominations are open for the European Edition. More information: www.innovatorsunder35.com